There are many reasons why your house might flood: Heavy rains, spring run-off from a rapid snow melt, a sewage back up, a broken pipe or even an appliance overflowing. The amount of water could be minimal and confined to a small area, or it could be several inches deep covering your entire basement. Either way, the potential for damage is the same and you need to take it seriously.
Most homeowners are worried about getting their house back to looking good. They think more about redecorating the space than restoring damage. But it’s not just a matter of cleaning up the water, re-painting and replacing some carpet. Your first priority should be to make sure that your home safe.
Water damage creates the perfect environment for mould and poor indoor air quality, causing hay fever-type symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes and skin rashes. If your post-flood restoration isn’t done properly the contamination from bacteria or mould caused by water damage can affect your family’s health, not to mention your home’s structure.
It’s important to act quickly, because this will help stop further saturation, damage and mould spores from growing.
CALL YOUR INSURANCE COMPANY
Your first call should be to your insurance company. In most cases, if the flood damage isn’t reported within the first 24 hours it won’t be covered. Most home insurance policies in Canada don’t cover damage caused by overland flooding—that’s water that comes in through windows and/or doors. But they do cover water damage caused by backed up sewer pipes or water seeping in through the basement.
HIRE A CLEAN UP COMPANY
Any water in your home needs to be pumped out. All debris and anything that’s been saturated must be removed. If there is sewage waste it requires extra precautions and professional help. Call a pro.
You will need one with plenty of experience restoring water-damaged homes. Ask the question—don’t assume every contractor will know what to do. Then do your regular background and reference checks. Contact past clients—not just 3, but as many as possible—and ask about the quality of their work.
HIRE A LICENSED ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR
This is crucial, especially if water rose as high as your electrical panel, outlets and/or switches, or if it got into fixtures and/or appliances. For safety’s sake, you must have your electrical checked by a licensed electrical contractor before turning the power back on.
HIRE AN HVAC SPECIALIST
Your heating and cooling system could have been damaged by flood waters, so have it checked by an HVAC specialist, especially if you suspect that water got into heat registers and/or ducts.
All damaged flooring (including laminate, hardwood, carpeting and tiling) should be ripped out, as well as the subfloor.
Laminate and hardwood floors will absorb water, swell and warp, including their subfloor. All water-damaged carpeting must be removed along with the underpad, especially if there is any natural fibre in it. If the carpet is made of synthetic material it can’t serve as a food source for mould, but the subfloor is going to be wood or OSB (oriented strand board, which is a composite wood product) and it’s likely that it will be soaked through. Even if you have tile, which doesn’t absorb water, the wood substrate will never completely dry out with tile over top of it. Any wet wood or OSB will lead to mould. Get rid of it.
OPEN UP YOUR WALLS
Most walls are made of wood studs and drywall. Both will grow mould if there's moisture. Your contractor will need to open up your walls so the studs can dry out.
As a bare minimum your contractor should remove at least 1 foot of drywall above the water line, all the way down to the floor—the more the better. If they don’t, you will get mould and mildew.
Saturated insulation bats aren’t effective because they compress and the air space gets full of water. Plus, the insulation will never completely dry out, which will keep moisture in your walls forever. That can lead to poor air quality, mould and mildew and further damage to your home’s structure from rot.
LET THE WALL CAVITY DRY OUT
After your contractor has removed all the drywall and insulation, leave it open so that the wall cavity can dry out completely. This can take weeks. A wood stud that’s dry to the touch can still be wet in the middle. Your contractor should be using a moisture meter to know if the percentage of moisture is safe to start rebuilding.
GET AN AIR TEST
Way too many families don’t do an air test inside their home. After a flood, you must test the air quality of your home to confirm it matches outdoor conditions. If not, get out.
TEAR OUT THE BASEMENT
Depending on the amount of damage, your best bet might be to tear out the entire basement, right down to the foundation walls and start over. That way it can be rebuilt the right way using mould-resistant drywall and insulation products that also help create a proper thermal break.